CMA Fest is that time of year when country fans from around the world flock to Nashville to get the full country music experience. Everyone has their favorite part, their favorite moment and that artist they just can’t wait to see. For me that artist has always been Vince Gill, and his annual fan club party is something I look forward to all year long. This year, like the last couple years, it was held at the Country Music Hall of Fame in the Ford Theatre. Wednesday June 5th, fans from all over started lining up outside the theatre anxiously waiting for what everyone knew was going to be a memorable afternoon.
This year something extra special took place before the party even got under way. Fan club member Anna Leighton had the idea to collect money for the Oklahoma tornado victims. While fans waited in line, Anna and I went around and collected money from Vince’s generous fans. As a group we raised $850.05 and Anna was able to present the money to Vince during the party. Vince, who is known for his humanitarian spirit, has done work with Habitat for Humanity in the past so the money went to the Habitat for Humanity Oklahoma division. We fans were very excited to be able to contribute to the folks in Vince’s home state who have lost so much.
As the doors opened fans rushed in to fill the seats in the intimate Ford Theatre. Everyone in attendance received a souvenir Vince Gill frame and was treated to some hot dogs to munch on. Once everyone was settled the room was buzzing with energy. Finally the moment was here and out came Vince, casual and relaxed as usual. He sat down on a stool and greeted us, thanking everyone for coming. He didn’t bring a guitar; instead he just came with his iPhone, his sense of humor and the generosity of his time. He told us he knew we had all heard him sing before and that he thought this was a great opportunity to just talk. To me, this was absolute perfection. When you follow someone’s career it is a dream come true to get to hear them answer questions while sharing stories about life, songs, and just about anything else you can think of.
Throughout the three and half hour chat fest Vince also played us a few recorded things not yet released. Him, along with gifted steel guitar player Paul Franklin, made an album called “Bakersfield.” It consists of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard songs that Paul and Vince love. We heard 6 songs, and let me tell you…this is an album you won’t want to miss! He also played us two songs from his daughter Jenny Gill’s upcoming album they have been working on together. Vince’s eyes welled up with tears at the sound of his daughter’s sweet and beautiful voice. At first reluctant, Vince got brave and also decided to play us a recording of him singing when he was just 15 years old. He chuckled listening to himself developing the voice that has given him the career he has.
I can’t even begin to recount all Vince talked about because there was just so much. However, the topics were broad from guitar playing, song writing, to family and words of wisdom. Vince made us laugh hysterically, got us teary eyed and showed us what the true definition of a humble artist looks like. Vince took question after question making sure everyone got a chance to talk to him. As the party came to end everyone who was there got the chance to go up, shake Vince’s hand and get a picture with him. Even though he had somewhere he needed to go he stayed until each fan had their turn.
Just as we anticipated the afternoon was certainly one to remember. Even though Vince is an ACM, CMA and Grammy winning country super star, he makes each fan feel like they are talking to an old friend in their living room. One of my favorite things Vince says is that he realized years ago that he has a gift and THAT is special, but it doesn’t make HIM special. This is how he lives, and this attitude makes him treat his fans and everyone with kindness and respect.
I know I can speak for all the fans when I say, “Thanks Vince, you are the best and we had a blast!” Can’t wait for next year’s party!